What to Wear in Paris Without Looking Like a Tourist

Bennett Collins

When I think of traveling in Paris, my mind inevitably goes first to stereotypes – suave couples strolling along the Seine, Gauloises at their fingertips and sunglasses perched: a combination of either hipster avant-garde or Villanelle (sans serial killing). Whatever the stereotype, it’s fair to say that Paris continues to deserve its reputation as the style capital of the world. More than that, it’s leading the way in sustainable fashion, with Paris recently launching its plan to become the sustainable capital of fashion by 2024.

So, with a dash of sensible dressing for Paris’ weather, a little current fashion knowledge, and your own je ne sais quois you can easily blend into the style ranks (that also exhausts my knowledge of French words and phrases). Whatever your personal style, here are some general tips, and some specific seasonal advice too.

Paris Style Tips

Paris Style Tip 1: Leave the Sweatpants at Home

Despite the fact that workout clothes have now become an urban default – worn from breakfast to brunch and beyond, this is not the case in Paris. The general rule is, don’t wear workout clothes unless you’re working out. If you do you might as well be carrying a sign that says ‘tourist’.

Paris Style Tip 2: Don’t be Careless About Style

It really is true that style is a priority in Paris. Parisians are smart dressers, and even those that appear at first glance to be dressed more casually, on second glance can be seen to be sporting the studied relaxation of the seriously fashionable. Dark colors and neutrals remain a good idea.

Paris Style Tip 3: Be Shoe Smart

Shoes are important. Although jumping on and off one of the many guide buses that navigate the city is an easy option – especially if you don’t speak French and find navigating public transport difficult – Paris is not only for lovers but for walkers too. In fact the best way to explore Paris is on foot, so pack at least one pair of shoes that is both comfortable and stylish. Vans – while ubiquitous – might work, and boots can be a good option. Given that Paris is also good for runners, if you’re thinking of going lighter on your packing then a pair of smarter trainers (like Nike Flyknit) might do the job for most wear. For gals a pair of ballet flats will pack light and blend into the Paris nightlife.

In addition here are some more ideas for nailing seasonal style:

What to Wear in Paris in Spring

Paris in the spring can mean unpredictable weather so some kind of water resistant outer layer that also insulates on cool days is a must – preferably one that stands the style test: a packable down jacket is always a good idea.

Unpredictability means that layering is also a must – light jumpers, shirts or blouses, and long-sleeved tops are a good investment.

Ladies, again, can buy in to the ballet look – think wrap tops and dresses, lots of layers and a cashmere wrap.

For men, button-up shirts and earth-toned pants, paired with a light blazer or pullover sweater for the evening, will undoubtedly make you look debonair (last one I promise). The month of May gets a bit trickier, with some days still having the coolness of early spring while others show that summer is on its way.

Evenings can see the temperature drop so make sure to carry an extra layer if you’re staying out from day to evening. An umbrella is a good idea too as May is usually the month with the highest average rainfall.

What to Wear in Paris in Summer

Summers are hot. Hats are necessary, as are sunglasses and a good SPF sunscreen. Breathable fabrics, like cotton or linen, will keep you more relaxed in the Paris heat, especially given that joining the city’s café culture to watch the world go by is a must.

For guys, breathable and light cotton shirts provide the best, and smartest, option. For ladies, Parisian women, young and old, opt for the cool of summer dresses and skirts.

Remember, too, that the summer sees the transformation of Paris’ riverbanks into seaside resorts, with deckchairs and palm trees the order of the day. Paris plages are probably also one of your few opportunities in the urban sprawl for more ‘beachy’ wear.

What to Wear in Paris in Autumn

Autumn in Paris is gorgeous. Mild days mean that summer clothes can catch the last of the summer weather and colder days can be met with an extra layer. Scarves remain a must-have, year-round, while cashmere, in whatever form, will certainly keep you warm and confident.

Jackets should be waterproof, but a denim jacket can also add to the layers.

November is an excellent time to visit with cheaper flights and fewer visitors. Remember to dress warmly for blustery days that aren’t quite winter yet, but are definitely moving away from the potential warmth of autumn. Waterproof clothing is essential and a pair of gloves won’t go amiss either.

What to Wear in Paris in Winter

Winter in Paris can be tough – very cold and crisp but December is normally a wet month so rain gear is essential, as are a good pair of wool socks, or two. A thick winter coat is also a good idea. I prefer longer ones that are waterproof and insulate, so you can just layer underneath. And, whatever you do, don’t forget a scarf, hat and gloves – you’ll need them if you plan to wander round les Villages de Noël (Christmas markets).

Whichever season you go, expect to people watch, and remember too: a visit to the French capital wouldn’t be complete without taking home your own small piece of Paris style. If you’re going the sustainable fashion route, try some of the environmentally sustainable brands popping up across the city.

TL:DR

Fashion is part of Paris’ culture. Above all, avoid the Parisian cultural faux pas of wearing workout clothes when not needed, dressing down to college wear, and throwing on some beaten up boots or tennis shoes

A Parisian spring is pretty unpredictable weather-wise. Go for layers and waterproof outerwear, and of course, a sensible umbrella.

Summers can be blistering.  Go for the cool, calm, and collected look as a goal in the midst of the heat. Lighter dresses and shirts with a few accessories will help you get there.

Autumn is the time to get all your accessories out. Show off your creativity through your layers. Scarves will certainly be on show regardless of the temperature.

Winter can be brutal. Snow and rain alternate and being ill-prepared can make you look like you need more than a chocolat chaud to warm you up. Stay warm and dry with a sensible jacket and necessary winter accessories.

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